Mental Health + Yoga Non-Profit

I remember being in some generic prerequisite college class in Missouri where the question, “what do you want to do with your life?” came up. My answer was that I hoped to help people.

At the time, I was on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in health sciences, which I earned a few years later. It’s a non-clinical degree that took the form of many career paths over those years, and in the end I used my degree to get career-level nanny jobs. Out of college, I was working for families, earning a salary and often benefits, traveling, cooking, and co-raising little ones. I loved it. Nannying was creative, fun, and fulfilling work that allowed me to make a tangible difference in the lives of the families I worked for. I watched words be learned and spoken, steps be taken, tantrums be had and recovered from. I cared for moms and dads too so that they could devote more time to their family and less to housework and ritual tasks like laundry and tidying. I was helping people, one family at a time. It was important work, every day was new and different, and most importantly, I could wear yoga pants to work.

I pulled away from full-time nannying for a handful of reasons, most notably because of a sudden and tragic death in my family. I spent a year traveling between St. Louis, MO, South Korea, the Lake of the Ozarks, Nashville, Bali, and Kansas City, MO, figuring out what I wanted to do next, where I wanted to land. In that year, I earned my yoga teacher certification in the rice fields of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia and made the decision to move to Los Angeles.

Just before the holiday season, my family suffered another sudden loss. I relocated to California after Christmas that year, worked as a nanny while I got my footing, and now teach yoga full-time. Sometimes I struggle with what I do—so many people come to me solely for exercise guidance, but I feel I have so much more I want to give and so much more I am able to offer. Yoga has done so much more for me than work out my body, and I’m eager to share the benefits of the practice—physical, emotional, psychological, neurological—in hopes of helping others in their times of darkness and need.

I’ve been hearing the question, “what do you want to do with your life?” repeat in my head a lot lately. Every time I hear news of someone dying from suicide, or an overdose, or a shooting, I feel called to action. I’ve had trouble picturing what that action could look like until this year.

I’ve been developing the idea of a nonprofit dedicated to providing free online resources for anyone suffering, grieving, or coping with trauma or pre-trauma for a while now. Only recently have I spoken of it to those around me, and even those conversations have  been limited to a small handful of friends, family, and charity work consultants. I initially wanted to host a big fundraising event to get this nonprofit off the ground, but after seeing yet another loss of life at the hands of a mental health issue, I don’t want to wait. I don’t need to spend time or money putting on a show and a dress and a full face of makeup to ask for funds when I can just ask right here, right now.

I’ve seen crime and personal struggle — with mental health always at the end of the string — tornado through my own family, and I know it touches so many lives beyond my own.

I also know that yoga is a science-based, whole-life practice that offers many methods for coping with grief, loss, sleep issues, anxiety, trauma, inexplicable dull moods, stress, self awareness, and more.

It clicked for me one day: I’ve used yoga to carry myself through two really big traumas in my life, and through all the smaller tough times before, between, and after. Why can’t it do the same for others? I have thought a lot about my parents while developing this idea. I've used them as a mold in my mind for what a person needing these resources might look like, what they might want, and what they might realistically use. The truth is, a lot of people don’t have a full picture of what yoga is and what it can do for them, can’t afford a yoga studio membership, don’t have time to get to classes, don’t know which classes to search for, don’t feel comfortable enough to seek out a group activity, or don’t think their body is made for yoga.

My solution: I want to offer a free, collaborative online space that a person in need can go to in times of struggle where I, along with other professionals, can offer help and guidance through the darker parts of life. With organized content, both audio and video, ranging in length from one minute to one hour that can be done privately, anywhere, and anytime. This resource could allow people to see—on their own time and in in their own space—that yoga is for everyone.

If you have the means and would like to donate to help get this nonprofit legally-approved and off the ground, your support in this new chapter would mean the world to me. I don’t know what this will be in a year, let alone 10, but I know I’ll never find out if I don’t start now.
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Kala MacDonald
Los Angeles, CA

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